Japanese Pianist GoJoin Ryo’ Heartfelt Performances Free Fans’ O-souls; Repertoire Includes Originals and Covers

The Yomiuri Shimbun
GoJoin Ryo bases her personality partly on the heroine of the manga “The Rose of Versailles.”

Pianist GoJoin Ryo has pursued what she calls “piano beat music” with dramatic performances and superb technique since first gracing TikTok in 2021.

The graceful poses that GoJoin strikes during performances have helped her grow a fan base, and her uniquely polite way of speaking is quite popular. For example, she adds the honorific prefix “o,” common in the Japanese language, to various words or adds the suffix “sama,” which is a polite form of addressing someone.

Sometimes in doing so, the words end up sounding humorous, such as calling her female fans “o-gal-sama.” Sometimes she also says “Merci gozaimasu,” combining the French word for thank you and an honorific verb in Japanese.

To quickly understand her charm, visit her YouTube channel, where you can be entertained by one of her original compositions, “Castle — Meikyu no shiro” (Castle in the labyrinth).

With its fast beat, GoJoin’s fingers move like a fluttering butterfly on the keyboard, creating an alluring, free-spirited melody. This is her “piano beat music.”

“The theme of GoJoin Ryo is to present a graceful, heroic world,” GoJoin said, explaining her style. “The sound of the piano is beautiful and the beat is heroic. I want to express the soul, which is not only beautiful but also honest and naked.”

Her covers of other artists’ music are also catchy. She creatively arranges the songs when they align with her values or after getting requests from fans.

For example, her arrangement of Ado’s “Usseewa” (Shut up) — appropriately titled “(O)Usseewa” — is composed in the style of Chopin’s “Fantasy Impromptu.” The flowing, distinct melody is moving. Although the familiar catchy phrase “Ussee, ussee, usseewa” is not sung, her performance sounds like she is singing that part.

‘Neputa’ music in hometown

When she plays, GoJoin straightens her back as she vigorously strikes the keys. She raises her arms high when she finishes. These body movements are also pleasing to see.

“Sounds and bodies are inseparable. Following the direction where the sound goes shapes my moves,” GoJoin said. “I have practiced ballet when I was a child, so the essence of that remains in my body and moves it, I suppose.”

GoJoin Ryo bases her personality partly on the heroine of the manga “The Rose of Versailles.”

The strong beat of her music has its roots in “Neputa,” a summer festival in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, which she calls “the place where my body was born.”

“The light sound of the Japanese flute can be heard over the heroic beat of the taiko drums. I have appreciated Neputa music since I was a child,” GoJoin said. The scenic nature of the Tsugaru region, which includes Hirosaki, also nurtured her sensitivity, such as the cherry blossoms at Hirosaki Castle, the landscape of rice paddies and the snow that covers the land.

However, she felt lonely as a child. She started playing the piano when she was 3 years old, or “0.3 Join” — GoJoin’s way of speaking about her age. As soon as she showed a glimpse of talent, she was forced to rigorously immerse herself in practicing every day.

“When I came home from school, I would play the piano except when I was eating,” she said. “My mother was a watchdog. I was not allowed to play with friends or watch TV very often. It was normal for me to be lonely. So, I had an unusual childhood.” Her only escape from the routine was ballet.

Established self-image

Determined to live a new life, she moved to Tokyo when she was 1.5 Join (15 years old). She enrolled in a high school affiliated with a music college and continued her education at the college, where she faced the dilemma of playing classical music.

“I had to convey the thoughts of every great master composer-sama. I was not allowed to play according to my ego alone. I suspected whether classical music was actually the path to take if I wanted to continue to follow my soul and play as if I were dancing,” GoJoin said.

Since she loved rock, hip-hop and electronic dance music (EDM), she started composing electro and club music and playing in a band.

From GoJoin Ryo’s official TikTok
A screenshot of one of her comical videos on TikTok

Her turning point came during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Society was filled with negative vibes. My close friends were overcome by sadness one after another. I had to say goodbye to several people. The experience made me think about my life and how I should live,” GoJoin said.

She asked herself, “What self-image do I really want to achieve?” After thinking hard, she came up with the answer: Lady Oscar, a beautiful heroine who dresses as a man in the manga “The Rose of Versailles,” and Odile, who is the Black Swan in the ballet “Swan Lake.”

“Both are strong and beautiful,” she said. “Lady Oscar is someone who fights for you and protects you. Odile enchants your heart.”

GoJoin also came to recognize her mission: “When I was a child, I was more motivated when I expressed something on a glamorous stage and saw people enjoying it. I remember being that way as a child. So, I thought that as an adult, it was time for me to become that kind of person and make the world more pleasant with my piano.”

She was awakened to become the graceful pianist GoJoin Ryo and began posting her performances on TikTok in April 2021.

“It is a harsh world where I’m judged by viewers who decide whether or not to continue watching my videos after a single second,” she said. “I try to demonstrate my power in my eyes and create sharp sounds to attract viewers at the beginning of each video.”

At the same time, she continued to shoot each video from the same angle and post them at the same time every day so that fans who wanted to escape reality would feel at ease. She gained more and more followers and was encouraged by the messages she received from them.

In February 2022, she began appearing in a piano competition on the TV program Teppen, in which entertainers with special skills in a field compete. She performed songs such as “(O)Ussewa” and “Zankyo Sanka,” the theme song of the anime “Kimetsu no Yaiba Yukakuhen” (“Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba — Entertainment District Arc”), which left a strong impression on the audience.

She now has more than 260,000 followers on TikTok and can hold concerts at major venues throughout Japan.

“I have become able to play for my o-fans, not for myself,” she said. “Thanks to my o-fans, I have been able to share the happiness of feeling joy and sorrow together. I want to protect their o-beautiful hearts for the rest of my life and be someone who can be close to their hearts at all times.”

The album cover of “O Aishu”

Latest album

Her latest album “O Aishu” (“O Love Collection”) is a collection of cover songs about love in the Showa era (1926-1989). It contains 13 pieces arranged for piano, including “Nanpasen” (Shipwreck), “Ai no Memori” (Memory of love), and “Ai Sansan” (Brilliant love), which were selected based on requests from fans.

“The pieces are simple, but very lyrical,” she said. “In the Showa era songs, the flow of the words matches the melodies, so I think they are very close to many people’s hearts.”